Skyline Stories: New Penn Station?, Housing and Foreclosure Maps, Drexel University Expansion, Augmented Reality

Big national news that some Republicans attempting to remove all non-highway/road funding, and Obama’s recently passed but potentially unsuccessful foreclosure and underwater mortgage bailout (Reuters)…but we’re not tackling those because nothing’s certain yet.

Moynihan Station would move Amtrak into the Post Office, but it will hardly affect 95 percent of Penn Station's commuters. Move Madison Square Garden to Javits and create a new light-filled Penn Station. / Image via NYT.

The Times has an incredibly in-depth map of the nation’s housing (NYT), and related maps show that home foreclosures are damaging cities and metropolitan areas, not just exurban zombie subdivisions (Atlantic Cities and WSJ).

Lots of new redevelopment plans — retrofitting many of the country’s 110,000 suburban malls into walkable downtowns (NYT), the Times ponders if the city move Madison Square Garden to Hudson Yards Site in exchange for a new grand Penn Station (NYT) and London opened its new Olympic Park (Guardian).

Artist's rendering of planned Drexel University project, housing 869 students and 11 retail businesses. / Image via Philly.com.

In Philly, Drexel University continues to expand in West Philly (Philly.com), the Reading Terminal celebrates its 120th anniversary (Philadelphia Business Journal) and the city now has its second historic industrial district with the new Wayne Junction National Historic District (Newsworks).

Volunteer planners are helping community groups in creating plans to improve the oversized and dangerous Queens Boulevard in New York (Urban Omnibus), and the same could happen in Philly with the Planning Commission graduating another class of citizen planners (Plan Philly).

Unfortunately, the state can’t come up with $100 million for SEPTA to renovate the City Hall station (Philly.com) and Florida’s high speed rail line would’ve been profitable within 10 years (Tampa Bay Online). But it’s good to see the Hiway Theater recreating its original marquee (Philly.com).

The Industrial Trust gondola, circa 1983. / Image via Providence Journal.

One of my favorite Philly buildings: Jacob Reed’s Sons Building from 1904 in Arts and Crafts Movement (Plan Philly), and the awesome Art Deco Industrial Trust Building in Providence, Rhode Island — with an airship docking station! (Providence Journal)

In tech news, the downside of technology and the city is the loss of surprise — Design Observer highlights the creeping marketing angle of augmented reality (Part 1 and Part 2), while the Times speaks of it in the death of the cyberflâneur…they’re intertwined but on opposite sides.

Two sides of trash — Hong Kong considers a “pay as you throw” system for garbage, but how can it calculate for apartments? (Atlantic Cities) and the gripping new book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” on Mumbai’s Annawadi slum and the wider world of the perils of globalization (NYT).

Advertisements

Skyline Stories: Philly’s Dilworth Plaza, Death of Coney Island, Beijing’s Failed Historic Preservation

IN PHILLY…the long-anticipated groundbreaking for the renovation of the dreary 1960’s-era Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall! The $50 million renovation is being coordinated by the Center City District, with partial funding from the DOT’s TIGER grants, and is being designed by Philly firm Kieran Timberlake, Urban Engineers and landscape architects OLIN. In 2014, there will be better access to the subways, plus a fountain/ice rink, lawn and cafe. Unfortunately, SEPTA’s $100-200 million renovation of the stations seems in doubt (Center City District).

Could Pier 9’s parking lot could hold the original Philadelphia shoreline from the 1600’s? (PlanPhilly) For the adjacent Ben Franklin Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) approved $350,000 to design the bridge’s new bike ramp; construction scheduled to start in 2013-2014 (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia).

Lots of hope for regeneration — from the distant hopes that a Casino Tourist District to resurrect Atlantic City (Philly.com), to an Inky billboard reviving Market East (NYT) to the long-shuttered Cubist? Tioga Theater being restored! (Hidden City). Meanwhile two fascinating TEDx-Philly videos on networking cities with Jennifer Pahlka (PlanPhilly) and mapping experiences with Amy Hillier (TEDx Philly).

Thor's Coney Island: Stillwell Avenue side of Joe Sitt's sterile and suburban looking new building in the new Coney Island. / Image via Amusing the Zillion and Tricia Vita.

IN NEW YORK…I never thought I’d write this, but the suburbanization of Coney Island has arrived (Amusing the Zillion). At least there are some relics of the past in Times Square (Forgotten NY). Twenty years after the Crown Heights riots, the neighborhood is in the path of being gentrified…for better or worse NYT).

Times Square’s pedestrianization seems to have ripple effect across the city, as developers are gobbling up parking lots — and not replacing the parking spaces (NYT). Intriguing study on taxi trips — they add to transit, not replace it! But if transit was more frequent and faster transit, then wouldn’t New York need fewer taxis like in European cities? (Atlantic Cities). Meanwhile a study shows that neighborhoods with higher crime cause people to walk less, but also take transit more (Mineta Transportation Institute).

Exciting times for sustainability in the city — Columbia has mapped energy use building-by-building (Solar One), tidal energy comes to Roosevelt Island (NYLCV) and new studies could play an important role in bringing urban agriculture into green infrastructure (Urban Omnibus). Watch for an upcoming film on Jamaica Bay, from my former Queens Chronicle editor Dan Hendrick (Queens Chronicle), and a fascinating interview with Michael Van Valkenburgh, the landscape architect who designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, on how he used topography to break the Manhattan grid (BMW Guggenheim Lab).

Plus a powerful photo essay on Cambodians in the Bronx
(Magnum Emergency Fund), and a cool audio-visual project by Benjamin Norman, tracing a year in New York with his iPhone (Milk Made).

NATIONWIDE… everyone is talking about redeveloping suburbs. Their built environment is literally killing us (NYT: Well) and developers are wondering how to redevelop around dead or dying strip malls (Atlantic Cities). Houston (of all cities) is adding green space with its Buffalo Bayou plan (Atlantic Cities), One Bay Area’s “Plan Bay Area” project hopes to make similar improvements (One Bay Area) and Boston is redeveloping the former Herald newspaper site on the waterfront (Boston.com),

Meanwhile, the Rails to Trails Conservancy published a groundbreaking study showing that people do walk and bike in rural America — in time for the hopes of restoring non-car money in the federal transportation budget (Streetsblog: DC). In transit news, high-occupancy toll lanes have reduced congestion but disappointingly not increased transit use (Atlantic Cities), but GPS tracking could improve transit (). Florida may have rejected high-speed rail, but Ft. Lauderdale is getting a downtown streetcar (Sun-Sentinel)

The USDA’s food desert map is a great idea — but with only a handful of Philly and New York City Census tracts showing food deserts, then how is it being measured? (USDA) Glad that it’s “the end of the segregated century” of American cities — but as the country re-urbanizes, could it swing back in the next 50 years? (Manhattan Institute) Could downtown cinemas hold the key to downtown rejuvenation? UCLA’s Film and TV Archive is now showing weekly films at the beautiful Million Dollar Theater (UCLA). The Architectural League announced its Emerging Voices awards (Architecture League)

Preservationists in Beijing awoke last weekend to find that the house of the famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin had been reduced to rubble. / Photo via NYT.

INTERNATIONALLY… China may have had its “Penn Station moment” of pushing for historic preservation, as Beijing destroyed the house of famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin (NYT). Meanwhile Indian cities are offering possibilities for low-carbon footprints (India Times), but are those too late for the rapidly growing Pearl River Delta mega-region of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, with 55 million people? (New Geography)

In Northern Ireland, Belfast is building a new museum for the Titanic in the shipyard neighborhood where it was built, opening for the 100th anniversary of its fated voyage next year (BBC), and Seville, Spain’s massive mushroom-shaped public art thing is actually successful? (Atlantic Cities)

Emotional mapping and the city — can the built environment improve residents’ moods?
BMW Guggenheim Lab A new study finds happy cities are beautiful, clean, safe and have safe drinking water Atlantic Cities. Maybe the real secret is building beautiful bookstores? (Flavorwire) I’ve only been to Paris’ Shakespeare and Co.

Cool look at maps from Frank Jacobs of the Strange Maps blog: South Sudan expects to re-plan its two biggest cities in the shape of animals, entering the obscure but fascinating field of cartozoology! Plus the never-built “Sham Paris” during World War II, and the notorious land octopus

Skyline Stories: Philly Pop. Growth, Old New York Being Destroyed, Tactical Urbanism, Las Vegas Revival?, Paris UX

DVRPC forecasts 11 percent population growth by 2040. / Image via PlanPhilly.

IN PHILLY… Great news as the Philadelphia metro region is expected to grow by 11 percent by 2040, including Philly gaining 7 percent, rising to 1.6 million, according to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). Of course, these long-term predictions are simply educated guesses, and it seems odd that the most growth would not be near transit. Check out the DVRPC’s cool interactive map (PlanPhilly) and (DVRPC).

Franklin Mint site redevelopment. / Image via Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

Lots of rezoning and master plans in the works — for the Lower Schuylkill and the Lower South and western Fairmount Park (PlanPhilly). Meanwhile, the new urbanist Delaware County town replacing the Franklin Mint site has been down-scaled from 3 million to 1 million sq ft, though will develop SEPTA’s Wawa commuter rail station and include a conference center and hotel (Delco News Network).

But not everything is great with development — the Inky architectural critic Inga Saffron writes about the “student slum” in Powelton Village (Philly.com), which is later accompanied by a map that proves she’s right (Policy Map). And Curbed Philly opens, featuring former City Paper columnist Liz Spikol as editor (Curbed Philly).

IN NEW YORK… tragic news as Kodak filed for bankruptcy. The city of Rochester too has suffered the same downward spiral, after “urban renewal” in the 1960’s gutted the city (Atlantic Cities).

Hollywood Theater from the 1920's. / Image via HuffPo and Kevin Shea Adams.

Old New York places are being closed and/or destroyed — the former Hollywood Theater (HuffPo), Bleecker Bob’s record store and newer music venue Southpaw
(NYT), Washington Height’s Coliseum Theater (Daily News). In Brooklyn, it’s J.J.’s Navy Yard (Vanishing New York) and possibly the port culture of Red Hook (NYT).

At least the Seaport Museum is resurrected by MCNY (NYT). In Brooklyn, its downtown skyscraper historic district was approved (NYT CityRoom) and take a tour of cool Floyd Bennett Field (Floyd Bennett Field).

Why is New York still going for two convention centers? It’s a no-win situation (Atlantic Cities and Next American City). Thinking smaller seems better — like in the Bronx, with No Longer Empty has a cool mission of site-specific art and community revitalization with the Andrew Freedman House (Urban Omnibus). Travel back to the Bronx in the 1980’s with En Foco, the borough’s Latino photo group (NYT Lens Blog). Could installing solar panels on school roofs hold the key to green jobs? (Scott Stringer)

NATIONWIDE… this smaller-faster-cheaper-better system of street makeovers is also called “tactical urbanism” (Miller-McCune), and a new term “Pop-Up Hoods” (Fast Company).

New report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking shows that spending on bike and pedestrian improvements yields huge dividends, but the country’s car culture is hard to change. More than 1/4 of all trips are less than 1 mile, but 2/3 of them are by car (Alliance for Biking and Walking). Turns out that Washington D.C. is the second-best city for both (TBD). On street-bike parking holds promise (StreetFilms).

Walkable downtowns, which pay more taxes than suburban strip malls (DC Streetsblog), can also be created by retrofitting old buildings (Atlantic Cities). Shouldn’t most cities just use street grids? (Great American Grid)

When you look at New York, the central spine of Broadway leaps out at you. But the other big spines are telling as well: They conform to subway lines. In New York, neighborhoods truly live and die by the subway. / Image via Fast Company.

But even with new urbanist ideals, can Las Vegas’ downtown be revived by Zappos’ CEO — with no background in urban planning? Why not let citizens participate? (Fortune Magazine) At least Vegas has affordable housing. (Atlantic Cities) But it and southern cities are heading towards huge droughts (Atlantic Cities). LA’s small farms, dating to the 1910’s, are fading (LA Times). Bad news for California high speed rail (NYT).

This is why the Northeast Corridor needs high-speed rail — to replace all the flights from New York City, the number one cause of flight delays in the country (NYT). Washington D.C.’s new streetcar system should push up home values (Washington Examiner), while there’s also a national competition to redesign the National Mall (UPenn Design).

Chinatowns, like those in D.C., are moving to the suburbs (ULI). Finally: so cool — Twitter maps of cities could help plan better transit routes! (Fast Company)

IN PARIS… the coolest story in years is of the urban collective UX that preserves untended sites — including repairing the Panthéon’s clock (Wired). The city is pushing some sort of transit along the riverbanks — perhaps an improved vogueo (water taxis)? (Association Grand Paris). Take a visit to the Little India neighborhood (T Magazine).

Two people per second move to a city. / Image via The Guardian.

INTERNATIONALLY, for all the talk of cities planning small, rapid urbanisation to megacities is presenting problems of basic infrastructure that seem almost insurmountable (The Guardian). Sony presents Futurescapes scenarios for sustainable living in 2025
(Futurescapes). And “green” buildings are catching on around the world (Inman News).

Sadly, with all the new technology that improves cities, could it cause the death of the flâneur? (Atlantic Cities) Finally, a fascinating look at American comics translated into Arabic in Egypt and underground comics in China at the awesome Tin Tin Travels blog (Atlantic Cities).

Skyline Stories: Philly’s Central Delaware Master Plan Wins AIA Award, Casinos, CA’s RDA’s Cut, TIGER Grants

Master Plan for the Central Delaware won the 2012 AIA's Honor Award for Regional & Urban Design / Image via PlanPhilly.

In PHILLY… big day as the City Planning Commission approved the Zoning Map Revision Plan, establishing the city’s first zoning revisions in 50 years, in tandem with a 5-year process of remapping each district (PlanPhilly).

The citizen-designed Central Delaware Master Plan won the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s Honor Award (PlanPhilly). Philly’s GIS system is one of the top in the country (Technically Philly).

PennDOT archaeologists uncover historic Dyottville Glass Works during I-95 excavations. / Image via PlanPhilly.

Nearly 50 Philly Catholic schools are closing — and developers are salivating (Philly.com) — and the city is hoping for more jobs by dredging the Delaware River another 5 feet (Philly.com). Thought I-95’s expansion will continue to block access to the river, archaeological work has discovered the soon-to-be-demolished Dyotville Glass Works in Kensington (PlanPhilly).

Why do cities continue to bet their futures on casinos? So much competition for decreasing profits. Atlantic City is hoping more casinos will push it forward, while Delaware hopes to protect its casinos. (Philly.com)

Nationwide, cities are pushing neighborhood livability — in Baltimore’s Downtown (Baltimore Sun), Washington D.C.’s The Yards (Atlantic Cities) and even Detroit, and offering housing stipends via the city (Nightly Business Report). Powerful video of Detroit’s scrappers, who melt down copper to sell to China…who sells it back to the U.S. Stayed tuned for the upcoming film “Detropia” (NYT). Cities are also trying to rethink their local and regional economies largely without federal help (Atlantic Cities).

Less than 10 percent of the nation’s metropolitan areas have recovered the jobs they have lost since the recession. Of the largest metro areas, Houston is the only one that has returned to pre-recession levels. / Image via NYT.

But cities are far from positive — less than 10 percent of metropolitan areas have recovered jobs (NYT), and California axed its redevelopment authorities (Atlantic Cities) and lots of departures from its High Speed Rail Authority (Systemic Failure). I’m on the fence about the RDA’s, sure they rebuilt inner cities with affordable housing, but also invested in neighborhood-killers like stadiums; and can’t their activities can be folded into more transparent city or state agencies?

TWA NYC 1960's. / Image via Atlantic Cities.

Improving transit infrastructure is the big theme this week, especially in the Southeast where a study finds the link between driving and obesity (Planetizen). But the new TIGER grants’ only urban project in the South is improving capacity for Charlotte’s light rail line. Chicago is the big winner with $20 million for overhauling the Blue Line tracks and expanding bike share. Philly gets $10 million for traffic signal upgrades (DOT [PDF]). Speaking of bike share, how cool would it be to have a card that could work on any system in the country? (Streetsblog)

Interstate system as a metro map. / Image via Atlantic Cities.

Cool maps and images:

• In New York, its ghost subway system WNYC and The City That Never Was (Untapped Cities), which reminds me of Skyscraper Museum’s 2007 “New York Modern” exhibit with Hugh Ferris drawings (Skyscraper Museum) Plus Project Neon (Untapped Cities) complements the New York Neon Blog (New York Neon).

• Federal highways as a metro (Atlantic Cities) and every tree in the country (Inhabitat). Paris’ RER-B line as the Eiffel Tower (Transit Maps) and the periodic table of city planning elements (Stephens Planning). Plus cool TWA posters from 1960’s — the best is Times Square (Atlantic Cities)

Paris RER B as Eiffel Tower. / Image via Transit Maps.

• Cool uses of citizen cartography (BMW Guggenheim Lab), but navigating the city with mental maps is more complicated than you’d think (Atlantic Cities).

Finally, architecture firm Perkins and Will has a new Transparency database to evaluate the health effects of construction materials (Urban Omnibus) and China is officially urbanized! It was 10 percent only 60 years ago (Atlantic Cities).

Skyline Stories: Philly’s Callowhill NID, Knight Foundation Art, NY Street Grid, California High Speed Rail, End of Exurbs?

Reading Viaduct may take longer to develop without the Callowhill Neighborhood Improvement District. / Image via PlanPhilly.

PHILLY’s big news is that the Callowhill Neighborhood Improvement District is likely killed, putting the Reading Viaduct redevelopment in possible limbo. Businesses were split on raising new taxes for an improvement in basic services — I think it’s shortsighted on their part but understandable with the recession (Plan Philly). Plus the Ben Franklin Bridge’s Camden-side bike ramp is being delayed (BCGP).

In better news, the Knight Foundation is funding cool news arts and culture projects — my favorites are Nuit Blanche (all-night arts festival) and the urban drive-in on the Parkway! (Philly.com)

Meanwhile the country’s? first net-zero energy apartment is coming to Philly — for affordable housing, no less, by Philly architects Onion Flats. (Philly.com) And the Storefront for Urban Innovation is coming to Brewerytown (Next American City).

"The Greatest Grid" sheds new light on the 200th anniversary of Manhattan's street grid. / Image via MCNY.

IN NEW YORK, two great exhibits on the Manhattan street grid are at the MCNY and Architecture League. Could it be extended to Governor’s Island? One proposal for a LoLoMa (Architect’s Newspaper).

MTA’s new head Joe Lhota may be able to extend transit to LaGuardia Airport as it undergoes a $4 billion upgrade (Second Ave Sagas). Meanwhile, the city plans on doubling recycling in five years (NYLCV) and the city’s Bike Share bikes will have GPS trackers to help plan bike lanes (Streetsblog).

NATIONWIDE, the focus is on California and Detroit.

California is getting killed in urban projects — the high-speed line may not be profitable (Washington Post) though it would capture about half of the leisure travelers who currently fly (The Atlantic: Cities). Why can’t there be the push like the UK for high-speed rail with its $50 billion HS2 plan to halve travel times by 2033? (The Guardian)

Meanwhile the state’s redevelopment authorities have been abolished — they’ve had a mixed bag of funding affordable housing and stadiums (Daily KOS). And a fascinating read on the history of city-killing parking lots that envelop LA (Los Angeles Magazine).

Detroit's proposed, shortened light rail line / Image via Transport Politic.

In Detroit, there are faint hopes that the shortened light rail will be built (Streetsblog), and a great piece about destruction and nostalgia in Detroit (Design Observer).

Is it the end of the ex-urban single-family home? Grim news as more poor Americans live in suburbs than cities (Business Insider) and American rental rates are at a 10-year-low (Bloomberg). But McMansions could be subdivided for multifamilies (Philly.com), and there are innovative new ways to redevelop marking lots and dead malls (NYT).

Public housing project crime (here in blue waves) disappears when towers are torn down! / Image via Atlantic Cities, Urban Institute.

Turns out that bridge tolls don’t impact the poor or very poor, probably because most don’t own cars (Publicola), giving more fuel to congestion pricing (DC Streetsblog).

Congestion pricing is only one way to make healthy cities — good neighborhoods need walkable and well-connected streets (Atlantic Cities), tear down public housing project towers because crime simply disappears (Atlantic Cities) and D.C.’s bike share data could lead to traffic analysis and solutions (Greater Greater Washington).

WORLDWIDE, urban and suburban sprawl is a big problem — failure in the state and urban planning (UN Habitat), but cities can become “smarter” with technology and sustainability (Fast Company’s Co.Exist). Finally, sad news as Infrastructurist signed off (Infrastructurist).

Skyline Stories: Philly’s Income Gap, Shane’s Candies, Inquirer Building

Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs have seen among the largest change in income segregation since 1970. / Image via NYT.

Stunning maps in the Times — illustrating how the Philadelphia metropolitan region has the highest rate of income inequality and segregation since 1970. Hard to believe, especially as Philly has faced gentrification over the past 20 years…but wow, it’s amazing to see how the rich have fled to Old City/Center City, but even more so to the outer-ring suburbs and exurbs. (NYT)

In Old City, Franklin Fountain’s Berley Brothers continue their cultural — just renovated the historic Shane’s Candies and it sounds amazing! Hard to believe that before the Ben Franklin Bridge opened in 1926, 20,000 people walked past the store every day after crossing the Delaware River on ferry. (PlanPhilly and Philly.com)

Dreary East Market Street may be reactivated with the surprise move of the Inky/DN/Philly.com from their stunning North Broad Street skyscraper (the “shining white knight” looming over City Hall, per Inky architecture critic Inga Saffron) to the renovated former Strawbridge and Clothier building. (Philly.com: One and
Two
, Naked Philly and That’s the Press, Baby) … What other buildings are endangered? Check out SOS’ annual list. (PlanPhilly)

In transit news, SEPTA chose ACS to design its new $130 million contactless fare payment system, slated for 2013. (Philly.com) They’ve also done EZ-Pass and as I covered previously, are working on Abu Dhabi’s upcoming payment system. Meanwhile PATCO hired a new GM, choosing longtime internal candidate John Rink, a Camden County mayor who would oversee possible expansion on Delaware Avenue, renovating the Franklin Square station and rebuilding the trains. (Philly.com)

Philly hasn’t removed the Occupy Philly protestors yet…but they are stalling the exciting renovations to Dilworth Plaza (Philly.com), which the Center City District just awarded to Keating (PlanPhilly). But it’s disappointing that the City Planning Commission approved SugarHouse Casino’s expansion. (PlanPhilly) …Surprisingly, Philly tops the country in best clean water through a variety of programs. (The Atlantic: Cities)

Shane's Candies recently reopened after a stunning renovation by the Berley Brothers, owners of the nearby Franklin Fountain. / Image via PlanPhilly.

Circling back to suburban sprawl, nationwide it’s destroying communities — from Florida (Streetsblog: DC) to Phoenix (Design Observer) to New England (The Atlantic: Cities). Now 1/3 of Americans live in or near poverty, with half of them trapped in suburbs. (NYT)

But solutions are slow or not there — the federal budget eliminated funding for high speed rail and sustainable communities, rail cut big, but at least New Starts and TIGER were saved. (Streetsblog D.C.) Times highlights great ideas for improving mass transit: residents plan routes to connect houses to job centers, van pools and nationwide commuting bank in which you gain credits for car-sharing. (NYT: Opinionator) The era of owning houses should end, too. (The Atlantic: Cities)

Maybe we just need more women planners, who tend to think small-scale rather than large-scale. (The Atlantic: Cities)

In Brooklyn…the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) is tackling public housing in Brownsville, where a century ago my ancestors lived. (MAS), and the recently opened Brooklyn Navy Yard sounds really cool! (L Magazine)

Worldwide…
Urban planners from Venice and the Netherlands are helping Thailand protect its ancient city of Ayutthaya recover from flood waters. (AP)

France’s southern port city of Marseille has a cool mix of cultures. (Times Magazine) … Fight to save the historic old neighborhood of Panama City. (The Atlantic: Cities) … Post-apartheid Soweto is slowly healing the spatial gaps. (Design Observer) … Great photos of 9/11 at the ICP. (ICP)

Skyline Stories: Neo-Suburbs by Blotting the Rust Belt, Last of New York’s Meatpackers by Whitney Museum

Are there any urban planning cures for de-urbanizing cities?

Homeowners can snap up adjacent vacant lots, creating block-lots, or blots. / Image via Atlantic Cities.

Perhaps the best one for “smart shrinkage” is “blotting” — when “homeowners in failing neighborhoods are snapping up adjacent vacant lots for their own use, creating block-lots, or blots.” Interboro, a Brooklyn-based urban planning and design firm, says it’s “one-part redevelopment and two parts de-urbanization, remaking the city as more green and less dense,” a neo-suburb or “new suburbanism.” (Atlantic Cities)

These cities could also be resurrected if states ended suburban sprawl, and encouraged renovating existing houses — which created 50 percent more jobs than demolition and new construction. (Atlantic Cities)

Cities could also attract the young, creative class by making them more pedestrian friendly, especially by taking away space from cars. (New York Times)

Improving mass transit would also attract residents. One cheap and quick fix for buses would be to let them use highway shoulders like in Chicago. (Atlantic Cities) And skyscrapers can become more human, watch examples in the new open-source documentary film “One Millionth Tower” about humanizing skyscrapers.
(Atlantic Cities)

Weichsel Beef plant, one of the last meatpackers in the rapidly-gentrifying Meatpacking District. / Image via Vanishing New York.

Lots of New York news — there was the annual Historic House Tour in Queens (Queens Historical Society) and the Brooklyn Navy Yard is now open to visitors! (International Business Times)

In the rapidly-gentrifying Meatpacking District, there’s a cool video of the Whitney’s construction of its new building by the High Line (High Line Blog), near Weichsel Beef, one of the last of the meatpackers. (Vanishing New York)

Finally, endless city mapping possibilities via Bostonography: autumn colors of trees, baseball radio coverage… (Atlantic Cities)

Skyline Stories: Straddling buses, Philly’s The Porch at 30th St Station, Little Red Lighthouse

In the wake of budget cutbacks, cities are experimenting with new forms of cheaper and more effective transportation. (How many cities could replicate Tokyo’s mostly-privately-owned labyrinthine transit lines that turn a profit?, per The Atlantic)

Straddling buses -- coming to a city near you? / Image via China Hush.

The wildest is a Chinese proposal for superwide buses that straddle lanes of traffic (Ching Hush), but more down-to-earth solutions include Mexico City expanding its bike share system (Stop and Move), rails WITH trails (Rails to Trails) and removing urban highways (Atlantic Cities). For transporting the elderly and disabled, it may be cheaper and easier to give them taxi vouchers instead of ParaTransit (Atlantic Cities).

On a smaller scale, want to take a seat on The Porch? It’s Philly’s newest public space (the University City District taking a page out of New York), quickly carved out of a few traffic lanes next to 30th Street Station. (News Works)

The UCD unveiled The Porch, some reclaimed land for pedestrians by 30th Street Station. / Image via Hidden City.

In wider news, global cities are fighting to attract the “creative class” (per Richard Florida) — but what happens if instead of making a more vibrant city, they live in “vertical suburbs”? (Atlantic Cities) There’s also a fascinating history of urban planning (Design Observer). Beautiful posters to support public housing during the New Deal era…it seemed like a good idea… (Atlantic Cities)

Detail of the "portovaults" for storing anything and everything. / Image via NYT.

In recent transformations, there are “sacred places in profane places” (Urban Omnibus), Chicago looks to restore the industrial Chicago River. (Atlantic Cities). In Philly, the historic Enterprise Center is becoming a food business center (Hidden City) and North Philly’s historic rowhomes are slated to be restored. (1260 HDC)

Tech news in Philly, as it hosted the TEDx Conference on “The City” (Grid Philly). One way to improve cities is with new apps — people can access data and cities can collect it. (Atlantic Cities)

In New York news…there’s a new exhibit on powering New York’s subways at the Transit Museum (TONY), fascinating look at the huge 1920s vaults on the Upper East Side for New York’s wealthy (NYT) Washington Heights’ Little Red Lighthouse was open for OHNY! (Gothamist) and pour out a litre of Coke for the sad news that Ray’s original pizzeria in New York closed. (Vanishing New York)

Skyline Stories: Kunming Bike Lane A/V Project, Franklin Court Renovations, HSP’s SEPTA Archive, Freight by Tram

Before we get in to serious stuff…check out this incredible multidisciplinary media project (left) of the bike lanes of Kunming, China — combining pictures, maps and recorded sounds of riding in the bike lane. Reminds me of the Detroit Escalator Company and bio mapping/emotional cartography. (CoLab Radio)

Traffic is just one of the problems with the world rapidly urbanizing — the urban population of developing countries is expected to grow by a million people every five days through at least 2030 (!) — but Americans have halted internal migration due to the recession, which is also causing suburban poverty to spike. (NYT)

The “ghost house” rendering of Benjamin Franklin’s home in Philadelphia. / Image via Philadelphia Business Journal.

In Philly, Franklin Court is scheduled to undergo a $21 million renovation (Plan Philly), more details on the Dilworth Plaza renovation (Landscape Online), Code Philly returns for a second year and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is funding new bike trails (Plan Philly. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is ready to open an archive of PTC/SEPTA materials (Plan Philly, and longtime journalism Jim Smart has recreated the 1876 centennial in the new book “Adonijah Hill’s Journal.” (Philly.com)

In New York, the High Line received a $20 million grant to help plan the final section (NYT) and the Grand Concourse is now an historic district (NYT CityRoom).

Meanwhile Paris plans on experimenting with the complicated idea of urban freight distribution via tramway. (Transport Politic.) New French blog Banlieues 21, I think about re-thinking Parisian suburbs in the 21st century, is one of three cool new ones this week, along with the Times’ Borderlines that examines cartography and culture, Transit Maps and

Finally, a line from “A Man, a Bike and 4,100 Miles” about biking cross-country:
But I’m no longer as eager to put the past behind me as I was in the past. If there’s one thing the ride this time has impressed on me, it’s that the present is where I want to live. Never wish away distance. Never wish away time.

Skyline Stories: MAS SummitNYC, Reading Viaduct, Aging Urban Infrastructure

How can we reactivate, reuse and restore our aging cities? Complex challenge, as American cities’ infrastructure tends to be 100-plus years old. Suburban sprawl shifts jobs, people and now immigrants farther from cities. (Atlantic Cities)

The Municipal Arts Society of New York recently held their annual Summit, which tackled these topics, and now have great videos up. “Eight to Eighty-five percent of the buildings that are going to exist in this city in the year 2030 are buildings that exist here today in 2011,” said David Bragdon, New York City’s director of longterm planning and sustainability. Highlights include cool new 3-D master plans and maintaining the Fashion District. (MAS: Highlights and Longer Clips)

New York Magazine has a ton of fresh ideas of rethinking global cities in their Fall Design issue. (NY Mag) New York’s a big hub of reactivating old transit — from the new surprisingly successful East River ferries (2nd Ave Sagas) and freight rail networks (which carry only 1 percent of the city’s goods (Urban Omnibus).

Mixed bag in Coney Island — the A&W family statues are sadly leaving (Amusing the Zillions) but a miracle as Ruby’s Bar and Grill and Paul’s Daughter are likely staying (Vanishing New York)!

The Reading Viaduct is an old unused elevated rail line on the northern side of Center City that several Philadelphia groups are trying to transform into an amazing public green space. (Photo by Alex Brandon for the Associated Press, via uwishunu)

In Philadelphia, the big buzz has been on the long-dormant industrial elevated railroad track called the Reading Viadcut, with SEPTA and the Center City District planning a study to turn a spur into something like New York’s High Line. (uwishunu)

Philly also seems to be leading the way in reusing construction materials (Grid Mag), and North Philly is reimagining what affordable housing could look like (Grid Mag). Chicago meanwhile is trying to grow industry from its own ashes. (Atlantic Cities)

Still, these things don’t solve the problem of fixing our aging infrastructure, as the country has 70,000 “structurally deficient” bridges that would cost $70 billion to fix. (Atlantic Cities) At least the FTA is providing some money for buses and Detroit’s new light rail line. (Streetsblog: D.C.)

And no city is in as bad shape as Arkham City, which you can soar around as Batman in an awesome new video game. (NYT) … Wish I was in New York for the Architecture and Design Film Fest! (Urban Omnibus) …

South Street Seaport Museum’s printer returns! (NYT City Room) … But what is real these days? Fascinating look at “authentrification” — keeping relics of the stores it replaces. (This Recording)